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Wisconsin State Championships Predictions

by Ken Schoville
February 5, 2013

Predicting the outcome of sporting events is ridiculously easy. You have an opinion, you make an educated guess, toss around a few names and theories and as a sports writer, they pay you big bucks, whatever the outcome. The only thing you don't want to do is take the outlandish salary they provide, (along with perks and public adoration) and convert that into a Las Vegas style retirement account. Because no matter how good the guess, sports are sports; unpredictable.

High school cross country ski racing should be no different predicting than any other sport. You look at the records, cross tabulate inside training knowledge, check with a few knowledgeable sources, and voila! Predictions come spewing out with amazing accuracy.

Of course there are some unique variables that come into play. Yesterday's results don't always trend upward. Occasionally, the top skiers over train; that serious ailment that comes from not listening to the body's warning signs and “stepping it up” at the exact time you should be recovering and tapering to gain renewed strength and energy. Tough to tell a teenager with “Champion” written all over there forehead, training log, and Facebook page to “chill”. Sometimes you can make a dent, but all too often they're like young black labs, except without shock collars; they learn the hard way.

Waxing is it's own head game. Top skiers brain clutch at the big events and select way too much kick, reducing glide to a pathetic downhill double pole event with competitors smirking and yelling “Track!” with an overdose of energy and enthusiasm. The opposite also happens. Skiers about to compete want freer skis, a noticeable lack of grip ensues, rendering screaming triceps and awkward positions as the legs are not called into play and missed kicks are aplenty, and again smiles passing and fading into the distance makes the field around look like superheros.

Then we also have recovering illness, beginning illness, broken relationships, bad grades, and general immature teenage angst, along with the traditional head case that skis well all year and falls apart in key competition. One skier ranked second in the state going into the classic day wound up seventh, a victim of nerves and overexhuberance that could never be paid back.

Like I said, predicting is an easy task. Given that, let's flick on the LED Crystal Ball and see what happens.

Hayward. Hayward? OK, how about someone other than Hayward. As the dominant team on the Wisconsin scene for the last century or so, the dynasty may be nearing a conclusion. We're not talking an immediate implosion, just the natural cycle of high school athletics. With three strong boys in senior Alex Larson, and sophomores Aaron Ostrander and Jake McGarthwaite, the historic family names all fit the winning profile. At the recent Northern Conference Meet at “OO” at Seeley, they were able to edge the Lakeland boys by a mere one point, and “ta da” one second. So, after a strong skating 5 kilometer, one second. Interesting. Perhaps changeable, at least according to the Lakeland boys' thinking. One Hayward coach thought the speed of the team could be a little off because of missing several key workouts stymied with the unusual snow year, an all too familiar lament.

Of course the really big news is that there is a new sheriff in town; Madison. After years of languishing in the winter wasteland, the tables have turned. Perhaps Global Weirding is good for the Nordic sports scene as the playing field is leveled (or decimated, depending on your affinity for the white stuff) as northern schools are adapting to changes necessary with snow/warm/rain/deep freeze/ rain/snow cycles that are somehow becoming normal, while southern coaches have a smug, “Been there, done that” (for years) look. That kind of weather pattern is interesting to view from your picture glass window with the remote in hand, but when you have a large contingent of high schoolers and parents looking for your sharp decision-making every day around 4:00, life becomes interesting; like in four alarm fires for the fire fighting set. Snow making, even on a dirty 1 kilometer “Ghetto Loop” can be an asset, something lacking for the most part in the northern part of the state; the traditional “Snow Belt”.

Anyhow, there are three boys in Madison that are ripping it up. At the Cavoc Races in Rhinelander, early January, they destroyed the field. Evan Patz, Gabriel Forest, and Jalen Betsinger absolutely controlled with the top three places in the skate race. That's a perfect six points; bulls eye, as good as it gets. However, just behind with 19 points, Peak Nordic was closer than the numbers indicate. And Chippewa Valley came in third with 27 points (without their top guy, Dan Delestry, who just may win state the way he's going). This is just the tip of the iceberg and until we get all the players in place, who knows. Sorry, the Great Swami Knows.

Of course the next day, Sunday at the Northwoods Trails, with a mass start skate, the whole applecart is upset as Lakeland shows up, grabs first for the teams at 24 points, Peak Nordic (by way of Waukesha) slides into second with 27 and 4-H CANSKI ties with Madison at 34 points as Madison's number three guy, Jalen Betsinger, travels north to shoot guns up at a biathlon meet in northern Minnesota (a very UN-Madisonian thing to do), leaving several “What if's?” to the day's outcome, along with the AWOL ghosts of Hayward smiling over the shoulders as results sheets are critically evaluated.

There are teams all over the state with good guys that could place in the top ten to twenty at state. Ashwaubenon's Kyler Berg is right up there, along with teammates the flying Eglehoff twins, Jake and Joel, and Andrew Bailey. The Pedeson/sen Triplets from Spooner (OK, cousins, brothers, Scandinavian clones) all ski well, and with heart. And when the CANSKI boys of Ian Liphart, Kevin Geisen, and Collin Larson finally get their collective act together, they're gonna be hard to stop. Peak's got the guns with Chaz Perry, Jason Geissler, Chayce Roecker, and Matt Dodd. Chippewa Valley's developing and if they get some support for Dan Delestry from Anders Lindstedt, and young Ben Theyerl, they could spell trouble for the other teams. Mark Wenzel from Neuman/Marawood could sneak in a top ten, and Sean McGibbon from Iola is looking fitter every race.

I'm prejudiced. After 30 years coaching Lakeland skiers, I tend to lean that way, so get over it. Lakeland has a bizarre talent array that just might, in recent memory, produce a boys' championship team. Senior Captain Lucas Paulson has the right stuff. Balanced, with leadership skills, he might provoke a a winning attitude among his team mates, and along with refined technique, a great set of fast twitch fibers, and a killer kick help get them to the top. Freshmen Will Bodeves and Mac Fitzpatrick both made the Midwest Junior Olympic team and look to be gaining steam, and although freshmen are usually only reliable for blowing up at the wrong moment, these two might have the poise to hold it together for the finish line. Senior Michael Orlowski is a classic dude and if he gets over his skate phobia could add to the mix. A winning combination? We'll see.

So, here's the deal. Teams go Madison, Lakeland, Hayward, with Ashwaubenon making me look bad through the whole deal and Peak sneaking onto the podium. That doesn't add up, but math was never my strong suit. Individuals go Chippewa Valley's Dan Delestry, Hayward's Alex Larson, and Ashwaubenon's Kyler Berg. After that it's a crap shoot.. Of course most of this information is based on freestyle results, the final technique being used in the two day pursuit in Rhinelander, so the all important classic setup will be critical to the skate/pursuit outcome. Shoot the messenger, but quote me this: “Blood will be shed on Sunday”.

The girls are equally as interesting. First the individuals. Nicole Bathe, Verona, is without a team. She was the individual champion last year and she will be this year, barring unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances. Just back from her yearly Scando Cup trip to the heartland of Nordic skiing, she recovered well enough from racing, jet lag, and missing school assignments to shellack the field at the Badger State Games 21 k skate by a whopping ten minutes. That's enough time for a cool down, snack and shower before second arrives. Good training day, Nicole.

Olivia Amber from the massive Northwestern School District, up on US 2, comes in next; without a team. Sister Nicolette is new out at Middlebury College, skiing for Coach Andrew Gardner (Ironwood, MI native) and Olivia continues the winning family tradition, tough in both techniques.

Third place in the individuals will go to Delaney FitzPatrick of Lakeland. She's trained with both the aforementioned girls on the CXC Development Team, and with a great aerobic capacity is favored in the classic event. With improved skate technique she may even hold off Olivia. This could be a friendly cat fight on skis. They had a photo finish at Conference with Olivia up by .1; that close.

We also have good solid ladies coming from the Iola program with Emma Barnes and Lily Kraft, both top ten to top five candidates who like to win. Peak Nordic always sends strong teams to state and this year is no different. Kari Bull, MaKenna Stelpflug, and Ruthie Barbour will all do the team proud.

Rhinelander homies Claire Tracy and Hillary Wall have the home course advantage and with the help of an undefined number three, things could go their way with a podium spot. Stranger things have happened. Chippewa Valley imported a Norwegian ringer in Ida Sonflaa, and that could be an interesting twist to the final results. Rumor is most of the state coaches are newly interested in Rotary membership.

The team totals still show Hayward as the powerhouse. With Senior Chelsey Tremblay, newly transferred homeschooler Keeley Jackson, and Junior Emily Burger hitting on all cylinders, they're going to be tough to beat. At the same time, Lakeland had a skating swat at them at Conference and came out on top-by three place points and 30 total seconds; tight enough to make coaches twitch at the next meeting. With Lakeland's Erin Bolger and Sophie Annis up and running strong, things could go the T-Bird way. So one-two for the teams are going to be a close call. You know my lean.

The real unknown is which team will grab third. Peak is my call at this time, with Iola and Madison in the dark horse position, with the chance of a Lodi and Chippewa Valley charging from the outside.

Once again the crystal ball grows murky. Classic individual starts, blown wax jobs, anaerobic debt loads unrepayable, overtaining, a skate pursuit where the will to win takes over the human pain threshold. It may be soap opera in the making, but it feels more like reality TV. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion February 9-10 at the Northwoods Golf Course Ski Trails, Rhinelander.


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